Chatfield Is Honored, But Offers Warning

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Under any other circumstances, when the California and Nevada leagues held their annual meetings here last week the big news would have been results from the first year of a $6-million public advocacy media campaign, along with the overwhelming vote to approve it for a second year.

But much of that was instead overshadowed by the pending retirement of the leagues' president Dave Chatfield, who will step down April 1, 2006.

Many league officials used their time to honor his lengthy CU career. Diana Dykstra, chairman of the CCUL as well as CEO of San Francisco Fire CU, praised Chatfield for his leadership. "Under Dave, the California Credit Union League has become recognized as the foremost credit union trade association. He will be sorely missed."

Dykstra said the search committee is hard at work trying to find Chatfield's replacement and expects to name that person in January.

Chatfield got a surprise when he took the stage at the two trade associations' annual convention and the entire staff of the California league was waiting in the wings, and walked onto the stage to lead the audience in a standing ovation. An emotional Chatfield thanked the staff for the greeting and applauded them in return for "all their hard work."

Matt Davidson, the California league's executive vice president, opened Tuesday's morning general session by pointing out what he said were the "commonalities" between Chatfield and the site of the meeting, Disneyland, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2005.

"Dave Chatfield has been around a long time. He's kind of a Frontierland kind of guy," said Davidson. "Though, some of his moves have left us wondering if he is in Fantasyland."

On a more serious note, Davidson said the David L. Chatfield International Training Fund will receive a large donation from the leagues.

Meanwhile, for his part, Chatfield had a stern caution for the attendees at the meeting.

"This is my last league annual meeting, and I have truly enjoyed the experience," he began. "I look forward to working through March; working briefly with the new CEO to continue the tradition of leadership. I thought about reminiscing about the successes we've had, but I can't do that. I must warn you about the grave danger to the very existence of the credit union movement."

Chatfield said the bankers' declared strategy is "containment and conversions." He said banks wish to make CUs feel "boxed in" and "uncomfortable" with their charters. "Can we stop them? Yes, we can, as long as you recognize it is your job, not someone else's. Be smart and stay together," he told the audience.

Meanwhile, as expected, members of the California CU League overwhelmingly voted to renew for a second year a public advocacy campaign that has been running on radio, with some newspaper support, in 28 markets in California and Nevada. Of the 4,454 votes cast, 4,350 were in favor of renewing the campaign, which is aimed at raising the profile of credit unions and what they do among consumers and lawmakers.

Approximately $6 million, raised through a special assessment, has been spent during 2005 on the campaign. A slightly smaller amount will be spent in 2006 following the vote, and another special assessment will be charged to affiliated credit unions. Nevada's credit unions also approved the campaign.

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